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Cicero on Rhetoric and Political Judgment

By Jed Atkins

A vital feature of democratic politics in ancient and modern societies alike, rhetoric has been subjected to powerful attacks, with the most effective targeting its efficacy for promoting political judgment. Plato’s Gorgias illustrates the dangers of the orator pandering to or manipulating the people in order to maintain power. Thomas Hobbes argued that rhetoric, insofar as it stirs up the mind’s passions, perverts the judgments of the people, thereby undermining popular government and requiring regulation by a single sovereign authority.

ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ ὁ Μαραθών (Luc. Rh. Pr. 18)? The Persian Wars in Greek Declamation

By William Guast

Conventional wisdom has it that the genre of Greek declamation was full of nostalgic recreation of the old glories of the Persian wars, a symptom of the alleged escapism of much of the literature of the Greek imperial period (thus, canonically, Bowie 1970; Russell 1983; et al.). This paper argues that this assumption is unsafe, based as it is on partial (in both senses of the word) surveys of the quantitative and qualitative evidence for declamation.

Empire and Invention: The Elder Pliny’s Heurematography (NH 7.191-215)

By Marco Romani Mistretta

Devoted to the human species, book 7 of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia is concluded by a catalog of inventions and inventors. In keeping with Pliny’s encyclopedic ambition (cf. Naas 2002; Doody 2009), the list aims at completeness and reliability, constituting a repository of the ‘extreme’ achievements performed by humanity in any given field. No wonder that Italo Calvino (1982:xii) compared Pliny’s seventh book to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Minimal Muscle, Maximal Charm: The Middle Style in Roman Oratory

By Joanna Kenty

The controversy between Asianist and Atticist orators, or between advocates of grand and plain styles of oratory, is well-worn territory in the study of ancient rhetoric. The third, middle style is often neglected in favor of the two extremes, or misunderstood as merely a halfway point between the two. In this paper, I argue that Cicero defines the middle style as a set of aesthetic and ethical criteria quite distinct from the plain and grand styles.